Insights From the ABPI Annual Conference 2023
4th May 2023 by Laura Higgins
On April 27th 2023, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) hosted their annual conference, which featured our medDigital team among its exhibitors. This highly regarded annual event focused on key themes such as the UK's potential to become a powerhouse in the global pharmaceutical ecosystem, the importance of research and development pursuits, and the role of government in industry decision-making.
ABPI Chief Executive, Richard Torbett, and UK Prime
Minister, Rishi Sunak, provided welcome messages that reinforced the concept of
the UK as a technological superpower, and the potential we hold to develop a thriving
and dynamic life sciences sector.
Session 1: Research and Development as an Engine for Growth
The first session, "R&D as an Engine for
Growth," was chaired by Russell Abberley, General Manager UK/Ireland for
Amgen, and featured notable speakers, including Cancer Research UK's Catherine
Elliot, Jill Richardson from MSD, Jonathan Pearce from the Medical Research
Council, and Simon Denegri from the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS). The
discussions were centred around the importance of research as a pillar of the
NHS, and how R&D must evolve to meet the UK government's life sciences
ambitions, with a specific focus on fostering partnerships between industry,
academia, and patient voices. The areas with the greatest potential for
significant impact included: research into preventative treatments (e.g.,
obesity and tobacco use), reducing hurdles in setting up trials, recruiting
more talented scientists, and supporting NHS leaders in creating centres of
excellence, therefore providing more opportunities for patients to be involved
Keynote speaker and Shadow Secretary of State for Business
and Industrial Strategy, Jonathan Reynolds MP, emphasised the significance of
the relationship between business and government in unlocking the potential of
the life sciences sector. He also stressed the need for stability in
governmental frameworks to ensure that businesses in the life science sphere can
continue to thrive.
Session 2: Improving the Health and Productivity of the Whole of the UK
During Session 2, Simon Newton of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, led
a panel focusing on a central matter – improving the health and productivity of
the entire UK population. Expert panellists included Sharmila Nebhrajani (National
Institute for Health and Care Excellence - NICE), Sarah Woolnough (Asthma +
Lung UK), Sally Lewis (Swansea School of Medicine), and David Lowe (Scottish
Health Industry Partnership). Speakers all emphasised the importance of
tailoring healthcare delivery to meet patients' specific needs.
They also flagged the need for greater flexibility in the
healthcare system, allowing patients to be seamlessly onboarded onto new
treatments, and continuously improving their experiences via patient reported
outcomes. Research carried out by the ABPI showed that substantially greater groups
of patients are supported, and consequently productivity gained, in areas where
more treatments are used in line with NICE guidance.
NICE representatives discussed several ongoing initiatives which
aim to improve the appraisal process and accelerate the speed of adoption;
however, clinicians need sufficient headspace to implement new pathways
successfully. There is an opportunity for governing bodies to work in partnership with academic centres to free up capacity. The panel also
highlighted the importance of data that pharma can provide for horizon scanning,
as well as PROMs that sit outside the formal regulatory or NICE requirements,
but which drive insight and change.
This key discussion highlighted the need for the healthcare industry to continue innovating to provide more efficient, personalised, and effective care for all.
Session 3: Building the UK’s Global Strengths
In Session 3, an expert panel comprising of June Raine from
the MHRA, Mark Effingham of UK Biobank, Nathalie Kingston from NIHR
BioResource, and Roz Campion from the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) and
chaired by the ABPI’s Amit Aggarwal, came together to discuss the impressive
array of life science assets and infrastructure available in the UK, making it
an attractive destination for global investment. These include the UK Biobank
which currently holds 15 years’ worth of health outcomes data and can create
large case control cohorts. The NIHR are also taking a more targeted approach
to research in areas of unmet need, such as in rare diseases and working with
The experts highlighted the need for greater awareness of
these resources and their potential applications, calling for collaboration
across all sectors, including investors, regulators, and implementers, to
maximise their impact. They also explored the challenges of bringing smaller
companies into the UK, and the important role of regulators in supporting the
industry to deliver on the opportunities presented by Brexit.
The session closed with an interview with John Stewart, the
National Director of Specialised Commissioning, NHS England, who reaffirmed the
NHS's commitment to advancing innovation and enhancing patient outcomes through
UK-based research and development.
Stewart acknowledged areas for improvement, noting that the
speed for launch of new treatments in the UK is half that of European average.
However, he also emphasised the UK's strengths, particularly NHS involvement in
enabling access to Car-T therapies; medicines adoption in hepatitis C, cystic
fibrosis and HIV; increasing awareness around antimicrobial resistance; and innovation
in rare disease treatments, which affect approximately 1 in 17 UK citizens.
The conference culminated with a Keynote speech delivered by Steve Barclay, the UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Barclay echoed the significance of nurturing “people, partnerships and processes”, which align with the underlying themes of the conference; fostering the growth of the UK as a global hub for innovation, and the necessity for companies to invest in UK clinical trials to sustain growth. His address encapsulated the importance of collaboration between industry and the government to shape policy and improve patient outcomes.
Overall, the ABPI's annual conference was deeply insightful,
with industry leaders and government representatives engaging in meaningful
discussions around supporting the UK's vision as a global leader in the life
sciences sector. The event effectively demonstrated the potential for
collaboration between government and industry to drive innovation, shape
policies and ultimately enhance patient outcomes.
We feel that the next ABPI conference will be a great forum
to share best practice examples of where change is already being made, to
inspire even greater steps towards this vision.